Authors: Christine Hsu
(EASTER ISLAND, Chile) -- How were Easter Island's iconic statues made? Archeologists Terry Hunt of the University of Hawaii and Carl Lipo of California State University Long Beach, have studied Easter Island for the past decade and reveal their latest theory of how the statues were carved with stone tools, mostly in a single quarry, then transported without draft animals or wheels to massive stone platforms, or ahu, up to 11 miles away.
Easter Island covers just 63 square miles. It lies 2,150 miles west of South America and 1,300 miles east of Pitcairn Island, its nearest inhabited neighbor. After it was settled, estimates put it at roughly 1000 years ago, it remained isolated for centuries. All the energy and resources that went into the statues, or moai—which range in height from four to 33 feet and weight more than 80 tons — came from the island itself.
Last year, in experiments funded by National Geographic’s Expeditions Council, Hunt and Lipo showed that as few as 18 people could, with three strong ropes and a bit of practice, easily maneuver a 10-foot, 5-ton moai replica a few hundred yards. In real life, walking miles with much larger moai would have been a tense business. Dozens of fallen statues line the roads leading away from the quarry. But many more made it to their platforms intact.
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